The Mockingjay Sings

There’s a beautiful parallel between love and hate, and war and peace in The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins.

Near the end of the third book, Mockingjay, Gale tells Peeta that he knows how Katniss will choose between the two of them, if all three of them survive: she will choose the one she cannot live without the most. Katniss overhears and receives this as perhaps an all-too-accurate accusation of her motives, but then again, she can see through Gale’s warrior eyes and it does feel true through them.

Katniss has survived for six years with Gale hunting at her side, both fighting for life under the oppression of the Capitol, and this has made him her best friend. However, once Katniss starts to understand Peeta, her perspective expands.  Gale’s friendship reveals itself as more of an alliance, where they are joined because of a common enemy and common pain, while Peeta’s alliance to her reveals itself more as friendship motivated by his love for her.

Later when the fighting is ending, when she is reaching for death in her physical and spiritual agony, when nothing good to live for seems to be possibly attainable or even visible, when the external world tempts to no joy nor can threaten any worse pain, Katniss sings. It’s as if all deliberation, contriving, and motive has vanished, and she produces what remains in her soul, and it is song. And in singing, Katniss lives.

Yet it takes time for Katniss to emerge from her internal world, and it is Peeta who signals purpose with those primroses. Peeta reveals how Katniss might go and carry Prim’s memory along with her while turning away from the abyss President Snow’s rose represents to her. Peeta “sings” life, too, and because he can, they can both keep going together.

Peeta knew, as Gale did, that we should not live as slaves, without freedom, but he saw further still, knowing that we should live as creators, and for love.

In describing this trilogy, Suzanne Collins wanted to expose war’s effects of adolescence to youth. I believe she succeeds, yet this matured perspective is nuanced in underlining the necessity of war while still driving home the essence of peace: peace is being able to live for something more than war. Once the war is over, if they are ever going to afford a lasting peace, people must learn to live for more than fighting, for more than retribution, power, even more than justice.

There must be singing.

It is perfect that the Mockingjay is beautiful for more than a call to resistance and battle, that the bird is compelled to glorious creation of its own. Mockingjays sing, and sing together. Katniss discovers that there is more in her soul than fight. And she chooses to live for more than war, like anyone who truly hates war must choose, if they want to live without it.